A few years ago I received a food dehydrator that I wrote a review for, here on Chef Talk.  While it isn't a piece of equipment that I pull out often I do pull it out occasionally, usually to make fruit leather for my daughter, but has my wife is a big fan of jerky I do occasionally pull it out to make something for her.

This weekend I got a chance to play around, again, with making jerky, and I have to say, I was rather pleased with the results. It sure beats out most of the big name brand jerkys out there and is a heck of a lot less expensive than buying any of those “gourmet” jerkys you see at fairs and festivals. I made both a Spicy Asian jerky, marinating it in soy sauce accented with Chinese 5 spice powder and Siracha (a spicy chile garlic sauce). I also made a Southwestern Chipotle Lime jerky, using ground chipotles to add a nice light smoky accent to the jerky. Of course you can always smoke your jerky before drying it in the dehydrator. I can be smoked afterwards but the meat will take up more smoke, more readily if you smoke it while still raw.

A couple of things to remember, if you are making jerky. First off you will yield about 1/4-1/3, by weight, of the original amount of meat you purchased due to the drying process so purchase accordingly. Secondly, it’s very important to remove as much outer fat as possible and choose meat with as little interior marbling as possible as the fat as a tendency to go rancid sometimes. For longer term storage I suggest placing in the refrigerator. I did not use any curing salts (nitrates or nitrites) in the making of these jerkys so long term storage, at room temp might be problematic. I wouldn’t worry about leaving it out for a day or 2 but for longer storage, play it safe and refrigerate.

Spicy Asian Jerky

1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. Sriracha (chile garlic paste)
1 lb. lean beef (I used an Inside Roast roast)

Chipotle Lime Jerky

1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. lime juice
1 lb. lean beef (see note above)

For each recipe, combine all the ingredients except the beef. Slice the beef so it is approximately 1/4″ thick then into strips about 1 1/2″ wide. Toss the beef in to the marinade and mix to coat. Because the Chipotle marinade is more of a paste you will really need to work at getting it distributed evenly. Tightly cover and allow to marinate for 10-12 hours in the refrigerator, stirring it every few hours.

Place meat in dehydrator, blotting off excess moisture from the Asian Jerky. Dry following the manufacturer’s directions. You will want to dry somewhere between 140F and 160F.

Drying time will be anywhere from 3 1/2 to 10 hours, depending on several factors, but if you made sure to cut your meat 1/4″ thick it should take 3 1/2 – 5 hours. To test for doneness remove 1 piece of jerky and let it cool to room temperature. It should crack along the grain when bent but it shouldn’t break apart. When done remove to a cooling rack, blot off any excess fat that rendered out and allow to cool completely before packing it way.